When Someone Cared

Restored Park - Opening Day 1967

Restored Park

Flushing Meadow - June, 1967

Opening Day, Restored Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, June 1967

Source: Personal Collection, © Copyright 2000, Charles Aybar


I worked at the park in the late 1960s to early 1970s at the NYS Pavilion. I can tell you everything about this building and the officials who visited it frequently.

In 1966, plans were to have this building converted into an art museum for the NYS Arts Council. This plan was successful. The "interior" walls were added then (1966) to the main pavilion since most of them were left open to accommodate a food concession facility during the Fair.

WHAT WAS ADDED INSIDE THE BUILDING: Track lighting was added in the building by the area left of its main entrance so that "art" could be displayed accordingly inside. Drop ceilings and fluorescent lights were added to most of the areas to the right of the main entrance and over by the food area (by the big cement pots that had trees once in them). The areas that were not touched (original Fair remnants) were: 1) The areas straight ahead of the main entrance and to the left of it (the original "blue globes" were left hanging from the ceiling, about 50 of them inside this one room. 2) The restrooms (over by the staircase by the time capsules). 3) The interior that once housed a cocktail lounge (left of the potted trees with the glass exterior doors). 4) The dressing rooms (by the extreme left of the main entrance).

CHANGES OUTSIDE THE BUILDING: Very few, with the addition of new air conditioning units and a new tar roof.

There were several art shows on display for a couple of years, and one concert (I think it was the Byrds that played there) held.

Charles Aybar
Posting to nywf64.com Message Board
May 12, 2000 


Charles Aybar at rooftop entrance

Charles Aybar from the service column (near the main entrance -- behind the Theaterama Building) on top of the highest area (100 feet) to the access ladder onto the roof (c. 1969). Note the thickness of the "sandwich" effect of the roof panels.

Source: Personal Collection, Copyright 2000, Charles Aybar


Charles replaces map lighting

Charles replacing the 500 Watt GE Spot Lights on the roof. These illuminated the map below and were about 100 in number (these were in the middle "circle" part of the roof).

Source: Personal Collection, Copyright 2000, Charles Aybar


Walking on the roof of the Tent of Tomorrow...

Well, to be quite frank, I was scared to death! At first, I would hold onto the upper cables (used for lighting) and walk very gently. It took awhile to gain my confidence that these panels could support my weight. I would have to replace the light bulbs every now and then as well as bolt each one of those panels together with an eyebolt that was strung from 100 feet below through a hole in the panel. Not an easy job -- but hey, I was only a fearless teenager back then!!!

I remember once I stepped onto a panel to see it vanish underneath me! I could have been killed if I hadn't held onto the cable. Wow! How foolish I was back then. When my parents found out what I was doing they nearly went hay-wire and had a fit. But that didn't stop me from working there.

Charles Aybar
eMail to nywf64.com
July 19, 2000



Charles' co-worker, "Atilla," walking on the roof guided by the lighting cables above the roof panels.

Source: Personal Collection, Copyright 2000, Charles Aybar


Map from Column access ladder 

Map and park overview

Looking down at the map from the column access staircase.

Source: Personal Collection, Copyright 2000, Charles Aybar


 Pavilion entrance - early 70s

Main entrance photo. Note all the roof panels were intact; "no thanks to my bravery installing 8" bolts through them" - Charles

Source: Personal Collection, Copyright 2000, Charles Aybar


In the years 1969-70, Bob Jelen and his wife Chris, both from Ohio, contacted the city to see if they could open up a roller rink in NY. Since the city needed more recreational facilities at Flushing Meadows, the NYS Pavilion would be the obvious choice. The arts council did object to this idea tremendously, but eventually caved in. After many concerns from the arts council and the local civic groups about how the preservation of the "Texaco Map" was to be treated to prevent damage from skaters, it was agreed upon that the floor be plastic coated. The roof (tent) was also a concern since some of the panels started to flap in the breeze. A plan was developed to secure them properly as well (I was one of the guys that worked on that roof and was scared to death of falling through!) Parks Department officials constantly visited the building at this time to make certain all safety concerns were taken care of and the building well preserved.

Charles Aybar
Posting to nywf64.com Message Board
May 12, 2000  


 Skating in the Roller Round

The floor was plastic coated to protect the Texaco Map which allowed roller skating to take place.

Source: Personal Collection, Copyright 2000, Charles Aybar

Cleaning the Map

Keeping New York State clean is a big, but not impossible task. Daily maintenance helps preserve the New York State Pavilion's $1 million floor.

Skaters at the Roller Round

Skating's fun for everyone.

'Roller Round' for LI

Skaters Will Take Over State Pavilion


The roof is dazzling in colors of blue, green gold and red. It shields a map of New York State. The walls have been painted, and a sign at the main entrance announces: "Roller Round Skating Rink."

The scene is the New York State Pavilion at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It is scheduled to open again March 17 as Queens' only outdoor roller skating rink and, according to press releases, the city's largest.

"It is a crime what is happening to the once-glorious World's Fair buildings," said James Mosley, rink general manager.

Mosley noted there had been talk of converting the State Pavilion into a cultural center, but he pointed out the $11.5 million facility has been used very little since the 1964-65 World's Fair.

"New York City is already known as the cultural center of the world," added the Manhattan resident. "On the other hand it is also known to be lacking in recreational facilities available to the general public. This is due to lack of space and city funds.

"It is about time someone catered to the needs of the majority."

* * *

MOSLEY SAID the rink's million-dollar floor -- 31,000 square feet of terrazzo inlaid with a

unique map of the state -- will easily accommodate 1,000 persons at a time.

Roller Round signed a three year lease with the City of New York and will operate from March to mid-November each year. It will pay back to the city a percentage of all receipts.

A transparent plastic coating has been applied to the floor, according to Mosley, providing protection to the map as well as a smooth, dust-free surface for skating.

The pavilion's roof, called the world's largest suspension roof (106 feet high), was literally "flapping in the breeze" before Roller Round engineers devised a method of bolting down all those loose materials.

"The rink will provide a place for friends and family to be together," said a spokesman for the firm. "They'll have fun, exercise and even perhaps learn a little geography while skating around the big, beautiful map of New York State."

The view is pretty nice too for roller skaters. The State Pavilion is surrounded by the Unisphere, the New York City ice skating building, ballfields and Shea Stadium.

There will be a $1 admission charge, and 35 cents extra for skate rental.

Source: Long Island Post, March 1970

 Padlocking the entrance - 1974

Concessionaire Robert Jelen padlocks the roller rink as two former employees--Maria Torrisi, 16, of Corona and Charles Aybar, 18, of Flushing--think of better times. (Photo by Bob Weisenfeld)


City closes rink for 'hazardous' roof


The wheels have stopped rolling at the Roller-Round Skating Rink in Flushing Meadow Park.

There will be no more skating at Queen's only roller-skating rink until "hazardous" roof conditions are corrected, a spokesman for the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs said yesterday.

The rink, housed in the New York State Pavilion Building built for the 1964-65 World's Fair, was shut down Thursday because the spokesman said the rink's operator, Robert Jelens, "had not lived up to the terms of his contract which requires him to keep the building in good repair."

Jelen, who said he was "caught by surprise" by the shutdown, said he had been maintaining the rink at no cost to the city since 1972 and "was never notified of any violation from the city's Building Department."

* * *

HE SAID THE BUILDING department told him the 1,000 multicolored plexiglass panels that make up the roof are unsafe.

Jelen rents the 65,000-square-foot, 240-by-320 foot oval from the Parks Department,

based on a percentage of gate receipts. He said it would cost $50,000 to remove the roof paneling.

Jelen said he would pay for the roof's removal if the Parks Department would forgive his rental payments until the $50,000 removal figure is reached. The panel is 100 feet high and slopes down to walls 11 feet high that surround the rink, he said.

First, he said, he will meet Monday at 2:30 p.m. with Andrew J. Jenkins, acting commissioner of the Building Department, to see if removal of the roof and a guarantee by a professional engineer of the rink's safety would satisfy the department.

Then, he said, he would have to negotiate the payments with the legal representatives of the Parks Department.

* * *

JELEN SAID IF THINGS go well, "the rink could re-open in three weeks." He said more than 100,000 skaters use the rink annually, adding "we have bookings from day camps, scout troops, and church organizations throughout the summer."

Source: Long Island Post, July 20, 1974

 Inspecting Roof

Robert Jelen, the rink operator, left, David Oats and Jennifer Forbes, assistant manager of the rink, look up at the missing panels in the roof, which was once praised by architects, but is now the cause of concern. (Photo by Ira Schwartz)


Closed roller rink may go roofless


When and if the Roller-Round Skating Rink in Flushing Meadow Park re-opens, it will probably be a roofless affair.

Housed in the old New York State Pavilion building of the 1964-65 World's Fair, the roller-skating rink was closed last Friday because the city's Building Department found its roofing conditions "hazardous."

H. Irving Sigman, Queens building superintendent, said the vacate order was issued following an inspection which found 90 fiberglass roof panels missing.

Yesterday, following a meeting with acting Building Commissioner Andrew J. Jenkins, Robert Jelen, the rink's operator, agreed to remove the entire roof and hire a professional engineer to inspect and vouch for its structural soundness.

The building department will rescind the vacate order once its own engineer confirms the finding, according to the "understanding."

A spokesman for the building department said the department will also study and evaluate all records relating to the building's history and structure before reaching a decision on the building's future.

Meanwhile, Jelen is also expected to negotiate with the city's Parks Department, which has leased the building to Jelen since 1972, about how the estimated cost of $50,000 to remove the roof paneling is to be paid.

Jelen said he would pay for the roof's removal if the Parks Department would forgive his rental payments until the $50,000 removal figure is reached.

Some 100,000 skaters use the facility annually, according to Jelen.

Source: :Long Island Post, July 24, 1974


Tent of Tomorrow - 1975

Towers - Circa 1975

On a park walk-through, July 1975. Vandals and souvenir hunters have already removed the decorative lighting around the tower elevator entrance (top). The multi-colored fiberglass panels still remain on the roof. The pavilion, by this time, was abandoned. Note the canopy and decorative lighting still remain on the lowest tower (bottom).

Source: Personal Collection, Copyright 2000, Bruce Mentone 


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